Sunday, April 28, 2013
There was no arguing with her. There was nothing. He’d carried her back up those steps, like an empty dress in his arms. Had taken his place in the chair beside the bed and was half asleep when he heard the knock on the front door.
“Coming!” he’d called out.
Then, to his Ma, he’d whispered, “That’ll be Career.”
He’d pulled on a pair of Francis’s trousers, belted up, checked the pockets, and found a chip of coal that Francis must have tucked away after a day of hunting the line; he’d slipped it under the bed for later. He’d taken the stairs quick, grabbed his cap. He’d opened the door to his best friend, who leaned hard into the brick and held a match to the end of a pipe, his head cocked toward the dying sounds of the power looms being tooled across the street. Career wore his charcoal-colored sack jacket and his one too-big-for-him vest. The dust had been rubbed from the crease in his boots.
The two set off down Carleton, stepping through the pool of the hydrant’s wasted water and giving a nod to Mrs. May, leaning out her window—nosy as always and putting a gloss on the hairs of her chin.
“Your Ma all right?” Mrs. May calls.
“Had some rye,” William says. “Some tea.”
“It’s something,” Mrs. May says.
“You keep at it boy, you hear me?”
Her voice sounding like bad news, always, no matter how nice she tries to be.
Career wears his black hair long, past his ears. William wears his tucked inside his cap. Career walks straight, to make himself taller. William, tall, walks a crouch. More hydrants have gone off up and down—the spurt and the fizzle of water, free. The flangers, the fitters, the chippers, and caulkers are home. The patternmakers and carpenters. The iron molders and turners. The ones who make the boilers go. The casting cleaners and assistants. Not Pa. It’s visiting hours up at the penitentiary. Career always comes along.
— excerpt, Dr. Radway's Sarsaparilla Resolvent, illustrated by William Sulit
(New City Community Press/Temple University Press, April 30, 2013)